Vols legend Rob Widby dies at 75

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Athletics) — Legendary University of Tennessee multi-sport star Ron Widby died Tuesday at the age of 75.

The Knoxville native was arguably one of the most well-rounded athletes ever to step foot on Rocky Top—the only man or woman in UT’s modern era to earn varsity letters in four different sports. Widby stands as one of only seven Vols ever to earn eight varsity letters. No Tennessee student-athlete has earned more.

Widby’s athletic exploits saw him letter three years on the Tennessee football team (1964-66), three years on the basketball team (1965-67), one year on the baseball team (1965) and one year on the golf team (1966).

The Fulton High School graduate garnered his first All-America award on the gridiron in 1966. He punted 38 times as a senior and cemented himself as the NCAA statistical champion with a punting average of 43.8 yards. His three-year UT football career saw him post a punting average of 42.3 yards, which stood as the program’s career record at that time.

He was equally as talented on the basketball court. In addition to being a two-time, first-team All-SEC performer, Widby was named the 1967 SEC Player of the Year after guiding the Volunteers to the 1967 SEC Championship. That same season, he was a Helms Athletic Foundation first-team All-American.

At the conclusion of his three-year basketball career under head coach Ray Mears, Widby ranked second on Tennessee’s all-time scoring list with 1,432 career points (18.1 ppg).

The 6-4, 210-pound Widby scored 50 points during an 87-60 home win over LSU at Stokely Athletics Center on March 4, 1967. That stood as UT’s single-game scoring record for nearly 20 years.
In 2005, Widby was honored as Tennessee’s SEC Basketball Legend, and he was named to the program’s All-Century Team in 2009.

Tennessee famously arranged a special flight for Widby so he could display his versatility for the both the football team—at the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston—and the basketball team—at the Gulf South Classic event in Shreveport, Louisiana—on Dec. 18, 1965. The Vols won both games, against Tulsa and Centenary, respectively.

In Widby’s lone season on the Tennessee baseball team, he hit .300 with 17 RBI in 24 games as a first baseman.

In the spring of 1966, UT golf coach Lloyd Foree welcomed Widby to the squad as a late addition, and Widby medaled in the first event he ever played. He later shot a second-round 75 at the SEC Championships hosted by LSU.

To further validate his versatile and elite athleticism, Widby was selected in three professional drafts in two different sports. He was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round of the 1967 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Buccaneers in the 1967 ABA Draft and the Chicago Bulls in the 1967 NBA Draft.

He played one season with the Bucs in the ABA but then focused on football, spending six seasons in the NFL punting for the Dallas Cowboys (1968-71) and Green Bay Packers (1972-73). He was selected for the Pro Bowl in 1971 and appeared in two Super Bowls with the Cowboys—winning Super Bowl VI.

Following his retirement from pro football, he returned to golf and worked as a club pro in Texas and twice entered qualifying school for the Senior PGA Tour—just barely missing out on his second attempt.

Widby has been inducted to the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame (1990), the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (1997) and the University of Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame (2016).

Categories: College, Sports, Sports – Local Sports News, Sports – UT Vols

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